The 24th-ranked Northridge men’s soccer team (5-2-1) came into the Big West Challenge at Cal State Fullerton having won five in a row, good enough for championship trophies at its previous two tournaments.
But after its most-recent games Friday and Sunday, it leaves Fullerton a disappointed and frustrated team in danger of being dropped from the top 25.
After having their win-streak snapped in a 0-0 double-overtime tie with Denver, the Matadors took it on the chin Sunday against a physically bigger Coastal Carolina squad, 2-1.
Northridge trailed 2-0 in the second half when it substituted six-foot-four Robert Pate and six-foot-one Milan Radovic at the forward spots for added size up front, and it paid off immediately. Radovic scored his first goal of the season upon entering in the 61st minute.
But the Matadors could not find the equalizer on several near-goals, including defender Rafael Garcia’s shot that went just right as time expired. Sunday’s loss was their first since the season opener.
Northridge, on Friday, was clearly the more dynamic squad, as it dominated ball possession and out-shot Denver 14-1 in the first half. But of the Matadors’ 28 shots overall (Denver finished with just 12), not one could find the back of the Pioneers’ net.
Denver’s bend-but-don’t-break defense not only kept CSUN scoreless for 90 minutes of regulation, but for an additional 20 in overtime.
The Matadors thought they had the game-winner at the start of the second overtime when senior midfielder Sunghyun Kim punched in what would have been his third goal of the year, but the referee called him off-sides, nullifying the shot.
Northridge has now been shut out twice while recording three shutouts of its own. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Ibarra had the first two and freshman Michael Abalos – who played every minute of both games – has one.
Abalos’ first career shutout streak was short-lived, though, as he saw two Coastal Carolina goals find the net, the first coming off a corner kick and header form the left side in the first half. The second goal came in the 50th minute off a Coastal one-timer in the box.
Surprisingly, Coastal took only six shots on the match, but made them count. The Matadors also took more corners at 10-3 – but it was all for nought.
Northridge has completed four games of a seven-game road stretch and next travels to UC Riverside, Wednesday, for its first conference match of the season. The Highlanders are off to a 1-6 start and are coming off a season in which they won only a single conference match, to go along with a 4-15-1 record overall.
Northridge finished 4-3-3 in conference last season, and looks to grab its first conference win in a match it is favored to win.